Motivation can be like a fleeting shadow; one minute it’s there, then it’s gone. When you start exercising, knowing what to expect can help you stay driven. Use this exercise timeline as a guide through your fitness journey.
An exercise timeline can:
- keep you motivated
- help you recognise a plateau
- keep realistic expectations
- understand the long game (and gains!) of fitness.
So, give yourself the best chance, and find ways to make an exercise timeline work for you.
Your Body’s Reaction While Exercising
The act of physical exercise will change your physiological state. Your body needs to adjust to the increased demand for energy. Over time, these physiological changes contribute to long-term health and well-being.
Immediate reactions to expect:
- Heart rate – increases to pump more blood into your muscles.
- Breathing – increases to feed more oxygen into your cells.
- Temperature – rises due to your body burning energy and increased heart rate.
- Sweating – due to the rise in blood pressure and temperature.
- Burning – a sensation from built-up lactic acid (caused by your body creating energy when it can’t get enough oxygen).
- Alertness – increases from more blood and oxygen sent to the brain.
Good news, there’s light at the end of the tunnel—and the beginning and middle! This list highlights some of the improvements with regular exercise:
Changes Within Days
- Energy levels rise
- Better moods
- Breathing improves
- Immune system improves
- Brain function improves
- Metabolism improves (which can help reduce insulin resistance).
*Be careful of increased appetite. Eating too many calories will undo your hard work! And do appropriate warm-up and cool-down exercises to reduce muscle aches and pain.
Changes Within Weeks
- Better sleep
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- More confidence (from how your body feels, plus the act of working towards a goal)
- Cells start to break down body fat instead of storing them
- More improved insulin sensitivity
- Skin, hair and nails will look healthier
- Better endurance
- New brain cells will start to form
- Improved blood pressure and circulation.
*Be careful of sweat rash (there are creams and ointments to fix this) or your motivation wavering.
Changes Within Months
- Weight loss
- Better coping ability with stress
- Stronger heart
- Greater lung capacity
- Muscle growth and definition will start to form
- Stronger ligaments, which will reduce strain and joint pain
- With increased athletic power, your workouts will be more powerful
- Easier to stay committed, and something you look forward to!
*Be careful of plateaus (see recommendations below).
Changes Within Years
- Improved life expectancy
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Improved bone health
- Look younger (thanks to the boost of natural collagen through regular exercise)
- Toned body and clear muscle definition if you choose
- Better mental health with less depression or anxiety
- Reduced risk of disease and cancer.
- Regular state of homeostasis (biological systems working to keep the body stable and give you more peace of mind.
Note: Success rate can be affected by other influences such as diet, tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
How to Overcome Hurdles
Use Your Brain Like a Muscle
Work on your mindset. The more you do it, the stronger it gets. Having a strong mindset can help in all sorts of ways: it’ll nag you to workout instead of loafing, push you through the burn while you exercise, help you resist temptations. As you smash through your challenges, it will become your biggest cheerleader.
Here are 20 motivational tips that can help you master the mental challenge of fitness.
“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.” – William James
Soothe Aches and Pains
Exercising intensely affects your muscle tissue which causes stiffness and soreness. To avoid excess pain or injury, it’s important to stretch before and after your workout. It improves blood oxygen flow and lessens the stress in your muscles. A good night’s sleep (minimum 7 hours) gives your body sufficient time to rebuild torn muscle fibers.
Additionally, take a hot bath or shower. Heat therapy helps your muscles and joints relax. A massage can also untangle any knots. Most importantly, don’t overdo it. A rest day can help your body recover.
Amp up the Nutrition
Eating healthier increases your energy and metabolic rate. The more energy you have, the easier it is to stay motivated and the more effective your workout is.
Food such as vegetables combat insulin resistance and help weight loss. Being slow to digest, it keeps you full for longer. Fiber stabilises blood sugar and reduces cravings for junk food and alcohol. It’s also good for gut bacteria, which is said to influence our energy levels.
When it comes to calories, nutritious food has more value. It provides more vitamins than a big mac, and it won’t take you a week to work off a single snack.
Power Through Plateaus
After a period of exercising and weight loss, your body may slow its progress. This is due to many factors including muscle memory, nutrition, and self-preservation. Your body adapts to your changes. As you lose weight your metabolism slows down. Eventually, weight loss can stall, despite using methods that worked before.
But don’t despair! There’s plenty of ways you can break through plateaus.
Eat more veggies, protein and drink more water. Green tea is also suggested to help weight loss. Review your eating habits, switch to small regular snacks, or try intermittent fasting. Adjust your overall calorie intake.
There are online tools that calculate your resting metabolic rate (also known as basal metabolic rate, BMR). This determines how many calories you burn while resting.
Keep your body guessing by varying your workout routines. Try new maneuvers and make sure you’re always challenging yourself. Keep moving afterward as activity stops your muscles from seizing.
Plan Then Plan Some More
It’s hard to reach your destination without setting a path. Having goals will keep you on track. As you face potential barriers, you can review what’s worked for you in the past, what needs to change, etc. Setting goals gives you a sense of progress and achievement.
What if You Stop Exercising?
Aside from possible changes to your mental state, there are physiological aspects too. You’re at risk of weight gain, losing muscle mass, metabolism slowing down, insulin resistance, a decrease in blood flow to your brain, and oxygen to your cells. Long-term risks include a weak immune system and microbiome, leaving you susceptible to disease.
Exercise Timeline Shows it’s Worth the Effort
Adding exercise to your weekly routine can be highly beneficial. When you’re tired or stressed, just remember all the gains you’ll receive! Each day, week, month, and year will add something extra to your life. Keep note of all the positive changes as you go through your journey.
No matter how long your fitness journey takes, there are positive changes happening almost immediately inside your body, mentally and physically.
What has been your experience? Are there any particular gains you’ve noticed from exercise?